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No. 16 Washington secures Pac-12 North with Apple Cup upset of No. 8 Washington State

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It’s been a dream season in more ways than one for No. 8 Washington State and everything was there for the taking on Friday night. A Pac-12 North title, a conference championship, a potential Rose Bowl berth and perhaps, if things broke their way, a trip to the College Football Playoff was on the line for the Cougars in their final home game of the year.

There was just one problem: that team from the other side of the state relishes playing spoiler for their rivals when the stakes are the highest.

Such was the case again as No. 16 Washington braved blizzard-like conditions on the Palouse to knock off Wazzu 28-15 and capture the Pac-12 North title for a second time in three years.

Seniors played a big role in the game for the Huskies as they won their sixth in a row in the series, none of which came close to being as cold, snowy, icy or windy as things were at Martin Stadium for this one. QB Jake Browning only threw three incompletions despite those elements but was reduced much more to game-manager status with 207 yards and a bad red zone interception in the first quarter. He was no doubt fine with that in keeping his record perfect against the in-state rivals during his career on Montlake and especially so given that it was a big night for his teammate in the backfield as Myles Gaskin rushed for 170 hard-fought yards and three touchdowns.

Wideout Aaron Fuller was responsible for UW’s other score that came off a Chris Petersen special: a reverse pass trick play that found a wide-open Hunter Bryant in the end zone.

While there will be plenty of taunts from those in purple and gold that the Cougs, well, Coug’d this one, that wasn’t the case.

Heisman candidate Gardner Minshew threw for only 152 yards on 35 attempts against one of the best secondaries in the country (the weather was obviously a factor too) but didn’t quite have another rally left in him. Tailback James Williams had a nice night as the one player who could find some success on offense for Mike Leach’s crew, rushing for 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also catching seven passes for 30 yards.

Not all is lost for Wazzu however, as the team is likely to be ticketed to a New Year’s Six Bowl even with the loss should they remain in the top 12 of the standings. That will be a bitter-sweet trip to either the Fiesta or Peach Bowl if it does indeed happen come Selection Sunday given what was in front of the team on Friday night but such is life after one of the best rivalries up in the Pacific Northwest.

The Huskies, meanwhile, can look ahead to the Pac-12 Championship Game next Friday night against Utah at Levi’s Stadium. The two have already played this season, staging a defensive-minded game that Washington won 21-7 back in mid-September. Both teams have had several up’s and down’s since that meeting and it is safe to say they enter as very different teams when they meet again.

The end goal is still there for the taking for the preseason Pac-12 favorite though: a conference title, a Rose Bowl berth and a bit of respect.

Jim Delany was highest paid conference commissioner in 2017-18; NCAA president Mark Emmert’s salary climbs to nearly $4 million

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The life of a conference commissioner is not an easy one given the amount of criticism from just about every level but at least they are well compensated for their troubles.

Really well in most cases.

Thanks to the latest round of 2017-18 tax returns from the various Power Five conferences and the NCAA being released, we now have a good picture at how everybody stacks up and business booming has resulted in even larger paychecks for most. Here’s the latest figures for the Power Five and NCAA President Mark Emmert:

  • The Big Ten’s Jim Delany moved into the top spot as the highest paid commissioner thanks to a reported $5.5 million paycheck, per USA Today.
  • Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott was not far behind his Rose Bowl counterpart with over $5.2 million in compensation, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
  • Big 12 head honcho Bob Bowlsby was bumped to a total of $4.1 million.
  • ACC commissioner John Swofford took home slightly over $3.5 million.
  • SEC leader Greg Sankey was by far the best bargain of the group, with the most recently appointed commissioner making right around $2 million last year.
  • Emmert’s salary was the biggest mover of the group of power players as Yahoo! Sports notes his take-home pay jumped 60% by going from $2.4 million the previous year to $3.9 million. All told, the NCAA’s public face has seen his salary jump by some $2 million since 2015 alone.

As you all know, the compensation for the student-athletes officially remained at $0 in pay for the same time period.

Alcohol sales expected to be hot topic at SEC spring meetings

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It just means more… beer?

It certainly could in the SEC as early as this upcoming season depending on how the league’s annual spring meetings in Destin, Fla. go next week. As Sports Illustrated reports ahead of everybody’s trip down by the beach, repealing an archaic conference rule banning alcohol sales in the general public sections of stadiums is expected to be the hot button topic that will drive the conversation among school presidents, athletic directors and coaches:

Many of the conference’s high-ranking administrators are optimistic that league presidents will not only seriously discuss the alcohol ban but will overturn an archaic policy that exists in no other major conference. The bylaw will be “front and center” during the four-day event at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort, says one athletic director; another AD says it’s “the main thing.” The administrators spoke to Sports Illustrated on a condition of anonymity.

It probably goes without saying that SEC fans have been clamoring for overturning the rule and expanding sales beyond the club areas where adult beverages are currently allowed to be sold. The conference is one of the few holdouts in this area as college football has swung back from being relatively dry the past decade-plus. Half the Big Ten will permit sales in 2019 and other programs like Oklahoma became the latest big program elsewhere to join the trend earlier this month.

There’s two positives supporters of an SEC repeal will no doubt trot out next week, the first being the increased revenues schools can make by opening up sales and the other being the decrease in binge drinking just prior to kickoff. The latter in particular is not something likely to escape the conference presidents given some of the game day atmospheres in the league.

We’ll see if things ultimately get over the finish line in terms of a repeal after a few years of discussion but it probably speaks to the health of the league that throwing a few drinks back is the topic de jour down in Destin this year.

Thanks to resurgence under Kirby Smart, Georgia donors have contributed $140 million the past two years

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Kirby Smart is just plain good for business at Georgia as much as the head coach is for the Bulldogs on the field.

Like, really good for business.

The Athens Banner-Herald recapped a number of the financial figures for UGA athletics’ recently approved 2020 budget and while the overall $153.89 million figure was notable and the projected $44.5 million distribution from the SEC Network somewhat striking, it was one nugget buried in the story that was really eye-opening:

‘Fueled by the football team’s success the last couple of seasons under coach Kirby Smart, donors have contributed about $140 million total over the last two years.’

$140 million over two years!

“Sustainability in college athletics is an ongoing challenge and we are fortunate to be one of the few institutions being on solid ground,” AD Greg McGarity told the board.

We’ll say. That $140 million figure over two years is slightly more than what fellow SEC peers Kentucky and South Carolina brought in just last year in terms of total revenue, per USA Today’s finances database, and even if you split it in two is still a figure that greatly exceeds most Group of Five programs entire budget. And keep in mind this is just donations for the Bulldogs, not revenues from media deals, ticket sales and other items.

Given that UGA has made the national title game and the Sugar Bowl the past two seasons, it’s probably not a huge surprise to see a big uptick in donations but that quite the whopper of a figure thanks to the Smart-led resurgence in Athens.

Wyoming set to ask the state for funds to help with War Memorial Stadium renovation

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Add Wyoming to the long, long list of FBS schools hoping to complete a facelift for their home stadium over the next few years.

According to the Gillette News Record, the Cowboys are all set to ask the state for nearly $50 million in funds to help with the renovation of War Memorial Stadium and other athletics projects such as a pool.

“On the lower west side, the treads and the risers in the bleacher section and the press box are far below Mountain West Conference standards and we need to find a way to upgrade that,” athletic director Tom Burman told the paper. “We’re going to need, as part of our vision, to make fans feel better, whether it’s back-rests or chair-backs or better concessions. They have an expectation level of what Saturday football’s supposed to be like and it’s very different from what we provide.”

The total cost for the stadium and pool, which are not being separated in the request to the state for funds, is expected to cost $74.2 million. Some $24.6 million is expected to be fundraised by the school with the rest covered by the money provided by the legislature.

War Memorial Stadium seats just over 29,000 people for Cowboys home games but has really only seen minor renovations to upgrade the venue in 2004 and 2010. Given that the venue was built in 1950 and only expanded to near its current capacity in the 1970’s, it’s understandable why the school wants to upgrade the home football experience as a result.

Wyoming opens their 2019 season in Laramie against Missouri on August 31.